In our age of t-shirts and jeans, folding clothes is a fairly straight forward process that can be done while watching T.V. or some other form of media. Yet, the art (because it is an art) of properly folding and packing away gowns of multiple yards of fabric is a skill that we reenactors can benefit from today! With a few practice runs, any gown, of any decade, can be folded neatly and securely to ensure safe travel from reenactment to reenactment or simply to stay clean and safe on a shelf. I have created a visual representation of the French method described by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale in her book titled:
“The workwoman’s guide: containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c. which are ususally made at home : also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c.”
Yes, this is the title….No guessing at what the book will be about with a title like this!
First, the text taken from the section of her book titled “Care of the Lady’s Wardrobe”
And now a step by step visual:
1. Lay the gown out flat, front side down.
2. Fold in the outer ends to meet in the middle. This may take extra folding for the skirt.
3. Fold up the bottom edge of the skirt. Make this a deep as you need…the deeper the fold the smaller the final shape will be.
4. Rotate the gown to have the fold at the top. Fold the bodice over so it is facing up over the top portion of the skirt.
5. Fold over the sleeves and arrange neatly.
6. Fold the skirt over so the fold of the bottom part of the skirt meets the bottom of the bodice.
7. Pin the edges together to make a neat little package.
Leave as is, or wrap in paper to protect the gown as you travel to your next encampment!
Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell, 1788-1879. The workwoman’s guide: containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c. which are ususally made at home : also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, Mann Library. London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co. …, 1838